Denmark My Mother Country. What Is All The Fuss About The Danish Nation-brand?

Emilie Krogh Hallin & Julie Hollensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The central focus of the thesis relates to nation branding and the alignment between the communicated Danish nation-brand and the foreigners’ perceptions of Denmark and the nation-brand. Organizations as Wonderful Copenhagen has implemented strategies for how to brand Denmark in the eyes of tourists, expats and investors. The motivation for implementing such strategies derive from increased international attention to Denmark, because of the high rankings as the world’s happiest country, which have been tied to the concept of hygge - the art of creating a nice atmosphere. The elements of happiness and hygge have been incorporated into the Danish nation-brand, but competitiveness from other nations now results in a need for modifications. Additionally, it becomes relevant to investigate whether the brand assets of the nation-brand represent the reality experienced by the foreigners mainly from outside of Europe. Based on the above, the researchers find it relevant to investigate the following research question: Is the Danish nation-brand aligned with the foreigners’ expectations and experiences of the nation? If not, how can it be modified? To present a thorough answer to the research question, the following reflections have been considered: What is Denmark’s current nation-brand approach? How do the foreigners experience Denmark in comparison to the communicated image of the nation? Are the significant tendencies brought up by the foreigners aligned with the nation-brand image presented in Carlsberg’s advertisement “The Danish Way”? How can Denmark modify its branding strategy to accommodate the tendencies among the foreigners? The empirical data which involved semi-structured interviews with two experts and 11 foreigners, defined as expats and tourists, overall generated useable data that illustrated and reflected the foreigners’ perceptions of Denmark. The findings revealed that the current nation-brand is built on a romanticization of the Danish life, comparing it to a traditional fairy tale that is based on happiness and hygge. Moreover, it presents Danes as happy people, who value a simple lifestyle characterized by intimacy and relaxation. Through a Critical Discourse Analysis of Carlsberg’s advertisement, “The Danish Way”, it was discovered that the company communicates discourses that draw on the core nation-brand assets: the cultural fairy tale discourse and the social (group) discourse, which both are influenced by roman nationalism and accentuate Denmark as one unified nation. Although the nation-brand image is deemed as accurate by the foreigners, they consider it a representation of how Danes live, as opposed to their own experiences in Denmark. Therefore, the nation-brand is overall not aligned with their experiences. Additionally, the lack of knowledge about the nation prior to arrival indicates that the nation-brand has not been successfully communicated to the target group. While many initiatives can be deployed to increase alignment, the researchers have reached two prominent modifications that can improve the Danish nation-brand. First, it is necessary to establish a clearer alignment between various sub-brands in order to create a strong and coherent nation branding strategy. This is linked to the second modification, which focuses on increasing the efforts to brand the entire nation of Denmark, not just Copenhagen, in a way that includes the experiences and perceptions of the foreigners. Due to the methodological and theoretical approaches to the thesis, the findings serve as “guidelines” rather than a tangible strategy for Danish nation-brand organizaitons and the government. These “guidelines” should present a truthful version of Denmark that incorporates perspectives from both internal and external stakeholders. Lastly, this investigation sets to highlight the importance of developing a unique and differentiated nation-brand that does not rely on generic brand assets such as happiness. The brand assets have impacts on the perceptions and associations of Denmark and is found to play a vital role when market Denmark as an expat and tourist destination.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages205